By Eugene Hrushowy
Special to the Record
One Comox man has taken it upon himself to make a difference in Ukraine.
While many Canadians what the war unfold on television, real people are still being maimed and are still losing their homes, their livelihoods if not their lives, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its third year.
Darrell McKay, a retired North Island photographer and videographer living in Comox - formerly in Campbell River – was exposed to the first Russian illegal invasion which was the Crimea, when touring with a buddy, the Ukrainian cities of Chernobyl, Kyiv and Odessa in 2016.
“Like most Canadians and certainly like most of us on northern Vancouver Island, I knew next to nothing about Eastern Europe and even less about the Russian takeover of the Crimean Peninsula,” he said.
When the Russians continued their illegal military action in February 2022, McKay, now sensitized, decided that the inactivity on the part of the West was unacceptable.
Five trips to Ukraine later, starting in September 2022, McKay is still active in trying to make a difference in the everyday lives of Ukrainians who have lost everything for simply being in the path of Russian drones or guided missiles. McKay’s boots on the ground has resulted in food parcels which support two adults for five days. The donated dollars he brings to Ukraine have purchased power tools which assist resilient Ukrainians in rebuilding their war-torn homes. These Canadian dollars coupled with Ukrainian ingenuity created cloth stretchers which are assisting in the arduous task of evacuating wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the trenches of the real war. These dollars are providing simple cold medicines and other medical supplies as winter comes to Ukraine much like it has in Canada. To date, McKay has distributed more than $37,000, much of it coming from Vancouver Island.
McKay funds his own way to Ukraine and back as well as pays for his own accommodation and food while volunteering in Ukraine. All the funds raised from friends, family and strangers go to supporting everyday Ukrainians. He isn’t alone, he works alongside other volunteers from the United States, Australia and from Canada. It is a grass-roots international effort. In addition, he has forged a productive relationship with a Saskatchewan-based NGO called Ukrainian Patriots.
To gain a fuller understanding of what you might do to support Ukrainians as the West regathers its stalled resolve, come hear Darrell McKay tell his story on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in Room B of the Comox Recreation Centre, 1855 Noel Avenue in Comox. Admission is by donation at the door and is free to members of the Comox Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society. For more information and how to make a donation online, go to the website for the NGO Ukrainian Patriots founded by a Ukrainian dancer from Saskatchewan: www.ukrainianpatriots.org.
Eugene Hrushowy is the education and cultural director for the Comox Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society